Corbis & Copyright?: Is Bill Gates Trying to Corner the Market on Public Domain Art?
Intellectual Property Law Bulletin, Vol. 16, Page 1 (2011)
44 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2012
Date Written: 2011
Art has the power to stir our emotions, evoke a physical response, and transport us to a different world. It can inspire and transform us. For all of those precious qualities, the public relies upon knowing that once the artist’s exclusive rights to the artwork elapse, the “art must ultimately belong to us all.” The notion that artwork eventually belongs to the public is paramount because art, like books and music, represents a collective experience that helps define what it means to be human. Thus, once the artist has enjoyed her exclusive rights to that art, it should belong to no one individual, but to everyone. This article argues that Corbis’s copyright claim in its digitized reproductions of public domain art is suspect and concludes by discussing the ramifications for the public domain when Corbis asserts copyright protection for its public domain digital copies. Given the power and influence that Bill Gates and his company Corbis have on the market for public domain art, it behooves the public to be aware of this issue.
Keywords: Copyright, public domain, art law, digitized reproductions, public interest
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